National Council for Behavioral Health

Improving the Mental Health of Young People in America Highly Ranked

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

More young people in America are struggling with mental health and addiction issues now than at any other point in history, and they are least likely to receive help. Left unaddressed, their needs will lead to suicide, fractured families, weakened communities, and will cost the country billions annually.It is time to ensure that today’s generation, and those to follow, can heal and thrive. Through our solutions, we will empower a generation with the skills to recognize, talk about, and seek care for mental health and addiction conditions by expanding access to the internationally recognized Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training. We will also ensure that care is available to all who need it by expanding Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) so youth, especially those in marginalized groups, can receive help. We have the opportunity and means to alter the course of mental health for the entire country.

Problem Statement

Our nation is facing an unprecedented challenge in supporting the mental health of our young people ages 15-25. Communities have little infrastructure or tools to address their needs. Schools and workplaces are unequipped to spot and address the signs of mental illness. The stigma and discrimination around mental illness inhibits young people from seeking help. Health care providers often lack the capacity and consistency to provide the full spectrum of quality mental health and addiction care. And poor coordination and fragmentation between systems creates unnecessary barriers to potentially life-saving support.Anti-stigma campaigns help bring positive mental health messaging to the forefront of society and stakeholders – from health care providers to technology companies – are innovating methods to deliver mental health services to young people. However, these approaches are constrained and unsustainable for under-resourced communities and rarely empower families and community members to have a role in supporting youth mental health, even though these groups are powerful change agents. Families and community members could be incredible conduits for meaningful change, if they were given the tools and skills to support young people in moments of distress and connect them with mental health services, as needed.Without sustainable solutions, the mental health issues of young people contribute to a host of compounding deficiencies: poor performance in school, minimizing higher-education opportunities; social isolation, exacerbating loneliness and suicide risk; and insufficient job opportunities, contributing to unemployment and homelessness. It also diminishes economies; further debilitates vulnerable populations, like minority groups; and creates intergenerational distress.

Solution Overview

We will improve the mental health of generations of youth through a comprehensive prevention strategy. From the ground up, we will empower millions of young people to talk about and address mental health by teaching MHFA, and from the top down, we will create systems that deliver quality, coordinated care to young people that need mental health or addiction services.Through MHFA, a 4- to 8-hour course that teaches trainees to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and addiction, we will increase mental health literacy and positive help-seeking behavior among young people, educate peers and allied adults on ways to help young people in need, and decrease stigma and discrimination. Our training will be delivered through unique modules based on the stakeholder group or setting: Teen, Youth, Workplace, Higher Education, or Adult.While MHFA delivers training on how to provide initial help to someone experiencing a crisis, it is imperative that those who require professional services have local access. We will increase access to quality, coordinated care by expanding CCBHCs, government-endorsed clinics that provide mental health and addiction care to everyone, regardless of insurance coverage, diagnosis, or ability to pay. Through CCBHCs, millions of young people and their families will have access to the comprehensive care they deserve.Across five years, we will build a healthier future for millions of young Americans and lay a groundwork for sustainable growth. We will measure our progress by individuals trained, communities reached, and improvements in access to services.

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Project Funders

  • Born This Way Foundation 2018 - 2019
  • Providence St. Joseph Health 2017 - 2019
  • Hellman Foundation 2017 - 2019

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